Dubbed "The High Priestess of the American Songbook" by The New York Times, Andrea Marcovicci is celebrating 25 years of performing at The Oak Room in NYC's famed Algonquin Hotel. Andrea has created over thirty nightclub acts, has sold out Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Lincoln Center, and appeared in concert with numerous orchestras and at the White House. She has acted in films, television and theatre, both regionally and on Broadway. Her co-stars have included Danny DeVito, Woody Allen, Sir Michael Caine, Sir John Gielgud, and Sam Waterston, among others. In 2008, Andrea's record label, Andreasong, released a compilation CD: "As Time Goes By: The Best of Andrea Marcovicci," featuring selections from her many previous recordings and two new bonus tracks. Most recently she starred in the off-Broadway revival in the title role of "Coco" and on "General Hospital." Her new film "Driving By Braille" is currently being seen at film festivals around the country.
To commemorate 25 years at The Oak Room, Andrea is premiering her new show "No Strings" through December 30. "No Strings" takes the audience on a wonderful trip around the world. It's a journey about life on the road, a warm, funny, heartfelt, and candid tale of Andrea's time spent traveling from city to city and what the bittersweet time has meant to her as a singer, an actress, a wife, and a mother.
I saw this show a about two weeks ago and it's truly a remarkable evening! Andrea really knows how to delight and dazzle an audience (click here for my full review). This holiday season, I would definitely treat yourself to Andrea Marcovicci's "No Strings" at The Oak Room in NYC's famed Algonquin Hotel (59 West 44th Street). For reservations and tickets either call 212-419-9331 or 212-840-6800 and ask for Oak Room Reservations!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I had the influence of my mother because my mother had sung in the 40s and had given it up to raise my brother and I. So there was a great deal of her singing in the house and listening to certain records of Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, and Judy Garland. She also took me to Fred Astaire movies. My father, who was born in 1885, 33 years-older than my mother, was a terrific dancer. He was a doctor, but he really was a ballroom dancer extraordinaire and he did exhibition dancing at the ballroom dancing school I went to in NY. So between the grace and elegance of his dancing and the singing of my mother, I don't think I had a choice. I think I was pre-programmed like a robot, "Oh showbusiness, I think I'll go." Hahahaha. To make this full circle, my mother sang at my show last night and wowed the crowd so much that she sold 5 of her CDs in the lobby. At 92, she's out in the lobby signing CDs. It's just wonderful.
You know, when I first started singing in the '70s, the music was very eclectic. I started at Reno Sweeney, which is a famous old storied night club down on 13th Street. It would be music from David Bowie to Kurt Weill to a Fred Astaire medley. It wasn't quite as devoted to the American Songbook as it is today for me, but it was still influenced by some of the torch songs my mother sang. Then in the 80s, I really wanted to be a torch singer exclusively, which I did, mostly for the first 10 years. Now, I myself, have more of a giddy nature and the music is getting progressively lighter as I get along. Next year's show is actually going to be called "Andrea Marcovicci's Smile" and it will be songs exclusively devoted to making people smile.
2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? I'm kind of crazy about Alec Baldwin. I've met him in the lobby of the Algonquin and he's very funny and a little dangerous and that intrigues me. Me: Well, maybe there is a role on "30 Rock" for you. Andrea: Oh that would be absolute heaven! I do intend to do pilot season in January/February. I've done a number of things as an actress in the past couple of years. I did a small independent film that I hope will get out called "Driving By Braille," and a movie that did come out called "Irene in Time" written and directed by Henry Jaglom, I did "Coco" at the York Theatre, and I did a day on "General Hospital" which was great fun. I would like to do a little bit more acting also because my daughter is 16 and I'd like to be home more for her.
I always wanted to meet Oprah Winfrey and haven't, but then again, doesn't everyone want to meet Oprah Winfrey. She's sort of like you want to meet G-d, but I don't want to die to do it. Hahaha. It's like meeting the Queen. Me: Well, I think to many people she is the Queen, well, our Queen. Andrea: She's America's Queen.
3. What excites you most about your show "No Strings" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing it? Right now, I'm most excited about the two new songs. I'm very well known for presenting the standards in different and unique ways as if their being spoken or sung for the first time. That's my modus operandi. To get to introduce new songs "Back at the Algonquin," "The Night I Fell in Love with Paris," and "The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days," and open everyone's hearts and ears to new words that they don't know is very exciting to me. It's also such an honor because "Back at the Algonquin" was written for me. "The Night I Fell in Love With Paris" is a debut. I'm the very first person to sing and I think it will be sung a lot. "The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days" is probably the kindest, most gentlest, most tenderest song. It's been sung by many people, but when I get to that moment in the show where I can thank everyone for 25 years of being here to see me, there's no better way to thank them than with that song. The whole show is a bouquet thrown back to the audience for coming for 25 years, but those three songs are a special flower. One is a rose, one's a daisy, and one's a gardenia. They each have a special quality that is unique to my shows. I don't usually have a chance to introduce brand new songs.
The other part that excites me in a show like this, is that the biggest laugh, comes from the song by Gertrude Laurence which was written in 1919. It kills me. There was one night the audience went so crazy over this song that I thought "This is the reason to keep cabaret alive." It's a 92 year old song and getting such a response, but I think that's because of double entendre, but as I say "You can use double entendre anymore because everything's entendre." Me: Right. Andrea: Nobody writes entendre anymore. I mean in a world of rap, forget it. Here they are at my show laughing and I think that's because of the innocence of the song that makes them laugh so hard.
4. What's it like and what does it mean to have a song written for you? Well, I'm very humbled and pleased, but it's not the only time it's happened for me. I'm honored to say that in 1991 Maury Yeston (composer of "Grand Hotel" and "Nine") wrote an entire song cycle for me called "December Songs." Anytime such a thing happens, it's an honor. Vocally, not only will the words be right, but it will also be what singers call "in the pocket" where the notes will be completely correct for your instrument and the vowel sound will be right for the note you are hitting at the time your voice goes to that spot. When Maury Yeston wrote the song cycle for me, even though many people have sung it since, it really shows that even when they sing it that it was written for Andrea Marcovicci.
In the case of "The Night I Fell in Love With Paris," which Tom Toce wrote, when he prints his sheet music, it will say, introduced by Andrea Marcovicci. There are other pieces of sheet music out there that say "Written for Andrea Marcovicci upon on the birth of her daughter Alice." And when I'm gone Alice will have sheet music out there by John Bucchino and Craig Carnelia.
5. What does it mean to you to be celebrating 25 years at The Oak Room and how has performing there changed over the years and have you grown as an artist? First of all, there is no one that has performed as long as I have in the same space since Bobby Short did the Carlyle for 35 years, so the honor and the achievement I do not take lightly because it simply has not been done. So, it's a right of passage and every time that I come back to the Algonquin is very meaningful to me. I work an entire year on each show. I workshop it twice, sometimes three times, before it comes in. I don't take my shows lightly. It's not something I get together a few months before. I am humbled every year, but certainly at 25 years, I feel a true trembling of spirit at the honor. Me: Well, I definitely think there will be 25 more, at least. Andrea: That would be heaven. I would love that and I will roll with the changes. I know the Algonquin is closing down for a while. I don't know if they are changing The Oak Room, there is a chance that they will, and anything that happens, I will roll with.
I would simply say that performing there has changed over the years more because of how I've changed. The audiences have grown with me, I've attracted younger audiences who have then grown up with me and then attracted even younger audiences who have then grown up with me. I've changed simply because I've gotten more comfortable and swingier. I never used to be able to swing. I never had a bass player until maybe 8 years ago. I used to do my shows with a piano only all those years and I was much torchier. I would say around the time I did the Frank Loesser CD that is when I started to swing and from that time on I've been enjoying swinging and I think I be will continuing to do that more and more. I don't think that I was anywhere near as off-the-cuff or as goofy or as willing to let out my zaniness as I am now. The madcap, I would call it. The madcap side to my nature is the biggest change. Also, my voice has changed over the years, so it's a lot higher than it used to be. Other people's voices get lower and mine got higher, so I've had to deal with different vocal changes. It's 25 years of singing and a voice doesn't stay the same, so I've retrained this voice consistently over the years and I just deal with the changes and revamp it accordingly.
6. What's your favorite part of the creative process in putting a show together? Research. Reading. Studying. Watching the movies the songs come from. Underlining the books, cause I'm a Catholic girl and love doing homework with a pen and a book, a real book, an actual book, where I can write in the margins or dog-ear the pages, (love that, a lot!), and then pulling the music and then eventually the process of rehearsing with Shelly, my musical director. My best part is hunkering down on my bed at home (I have the kind of bed that you have to climb up into) and get all my books together and underline...ooohhh that's heaven. Then getting in touch with my collectors. Unfortunately Bob Grimes, my number one collector, just went up to heaven, but there is Michael Levine here in NY and there are other collectors, plus my own collection. I have a HUGE collection of sheet music and I could probably do my next years of shows from personal collection. It's so exciting. Research is so exciting. I love it! I'm a little bookworm at heart. There just isn't anything nicer. Oh Adam, it's so pretty. I have a corner window at home and if I pull the blinds up (they are old wooden blinds that go clack, clack as you pull them up) all I see are trees. I can't see anything but trees and if I sit crossed-legged with all my books, it's like a tree house and I don't hear anything but birds and crickets. I could just hunker down in a book about Fred Astaire or vaudeville or swing or ragtime. I can't wait! Then I start pulling the music and throw it on the floor, so I can see it visually. I need to see it visually and when I do that, I can pull a show out of it and then of course I get with Shelly and he's a genius because he gets me.
7. Where is your favorite place to practice on your own? In my own home. Shelly comes to me. I have a huge piano in the upstairs of a two level house. There is the formal living room where the piano is and there is a den/living room downstairs. So we work upstairs and there is a raspberry colored rug and I throw all the music on that floor, so it definitely doesn't get lost. That's how I work.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That I am indeed indomitable. Nothing gets me down. No matter what happens in any day, I could get the worst news or a 1/2 hour before the show I could have a difficult conversation and still get on stage. Last year, my mother was in the hospital, I went to visit her on Sundays and Mondays, but on Tuesday, I was on that stage. I didn't have her on Thursdays at my show as I always had and I was in adjunct and worry, but 1/2 hour before I get that make-up on and hair out and go downstairs and entertain. That is in your bones or it's not. You either have it or you don't. I have never missed a show in my life, except for a snowstorm. You know what I missed, I was supposed to be on a double bill with Steve Tyrell, so I missed my opportunity. Shoot! I've learned that there is absolutely nothing that can actually stop my spirit when it's showtime. Even Noel Coward said (with full on accent) "Why must the show go on? It can't be all that indispensable." I love that song. Then Andrea sings "To me, it really isn't sensible on the whole, to play a leading role, while fighting those tears you can't control." Hahaha...he would do it. I doubt that he ever missed a show. Show people are incredible.
9. What made you want to teach a master class in cabaret? I think that I was invited to do it and I had never taught before and when I taught it gave me new life. It gave me new courage. It was in August and when I was tired, very tired of a whole year's touring, I suddenly realized I was not tired anymore. It rejuvenated me. It gave me new reason to continue to create. I never thought that would be what it was. Some people would think, "Oh my gosh, you just worked for a whole year, why would you want to do that, that will drain you." On the contrary, it gave me the opposite feeling. So from now on, I'd like to add it to every city I go to. I just recently gave a class during the day and that night, I gave one of my best shows. It gives you energy to give ideas away.
10. What have you learned from your students that take the class? Hope.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Do you know who Morris Karnovsky was? He was one of the great, great actors of the 1930s and then he became a director and then an acting teacher. My husband was working with him in a production. I was doing "St. Joan" in CT, and I had seen him in many productions of it, so I couldn't resist asking my husband to ask Morris Karnvosky, "Do you have any advice for me?" So, Dan says, "Mr. Karnovsky, my girlfriend is playing "Joan," and wanted to know if you had any advice for her?" So the advice comes (In a husky voice), "Well, does she know her lines?" Dan says, "Yes, Mr. Karnovsky, of course she knows her lines." Mr. Karnovsky says, "Well, then tell her to plow ahead." So that was the best advice I've ever gotten.
12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Oh my...well if I could do it on purpose, I would dream of Meryl Streep and Hugh Jackman. I've met Hugh briefly in real life and he was very sweet. I admire Meryl so much that it would be great to dream about her. I used to dream about Bill Clinton all the time and I sang for him in my dream, which was very nice!
13. What do you think the secret to life is? Curiosity. It's one of the first things I teach my students. If you have no curiosity or love for strangers, you are in the wrong game because the first thing you have to have when you walk out on that stage is an unabashed affection for your audience. It's true that I have regulars in my audience and I can say hello to and I know a lot of them, but anywhere you go, you have a room full of wonderful strangers. You have to have this ability to care for and almost love strangers. It even happens in the lobby of the Algonquin when I walk through in the afternoon, I have a kind of genuine curiosity of who's there, what are they thinking about, what are they talking about, why are they here, and what's on their minds? That kind of curiosity bleeds into the performance room and when I enter, I have that open channel that allows me to entertain.